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  • Bong Joon-ho's "Parasite"

  • is a virtually perfect film on every level.

  • On the surface, its technical execution

  • is so precise and immaculate

  • that it's hard to notice the film's greatest achievement

  • hiding underneath:

  • the screenplay.

  • For Bong, who has written every single film in his career,

  • "Parasite" is essentially a culmination

  • of everything he's learned over the years.

  • But in its more than two hours of runtime,

  • there is a single moment

  • that truly exemplifies his genius,

  • a sequence that transforms "Parasite"

  • into cinematic perfection.

  • [doorbell rings]

  • Like all great stories, "Parasite" has

  • a beginning, a middle, and an end,

  • yet it never quite follows the usual

  • three-act structure we're familiar with.

  • Instead, the film plays a lot like two separate movies

  • that are joined into one.

  • The first film deals with the two families:

  • the impoverished Kims, who plan to infiltrate

  • the wealthy Parks by each posing as a tutor,

  • a driver, and a housekeeper.

  • But it creates an odd moment in the story

  • about 50 minutes in,

  • after the Kims have removed all of the existing employees

  • to essentially take over the house.

  • Suddenly, there's no conflict left to carry the film,

  • and the story comes to a literal stop.

  • But it's the sequence that bridges

  • the end of the first film to the unexpected second

  • where Bong stages his attack.

  • Let's take a look.

  • Bong begins the sequence by visually establishing

  • the Kims' false sense of success,

  • having dedicated an entire previous sequence

  • to show the Kims reaping the rewards of their scheme.

  • But he does it most effectively with

  • a simple parallel image using a window,

  • a motif of luxury that was introduced

  • earlier in the film.

  • The Kims, who had previously been subjected to the views

  • of ordinary life outside their basement apartment,

  • discover privacy as a form of luxury.

  • Yet, despite all of this, their success

  • is only downplayed by their dialogue,

  • which emphasizes just how far they are from it.

  • Bong keeps the dialogue engaging

  • by faking out three moments of tension

  • that gradually build over time.

  • These moments are known as beats in a dialogue.

  • Each beat organically interrupts and changes the flow

  • and the topic of conversation.

  • Until it seemingly explodes on the third beat.

  • [glass shatters]

  • [both laughing]

  • [doorbell rings]

  • It's no coincidence that this doorbell

  • marks the exact midpoint of the screenplay,

  • appearing on page 71 out of a 141-page script.

  • It's a sound that signifies the end of the first film

  • and what Bong refers to as "the real start of the film."

  • It's a brilliantly foreboding moment

  • after a series of peaceful sequences.

  • The audience is aware that something is about to go wrong,

  • they just aren't sure what it is.

  • This is probably the best moment to talk about

  • the films that inspired "Parasite."

  • Bong has mentioned several,

  • and the most obvious is Kim Ki-young's 1960 film

  • "The Housemaid," which features a similar story

  • about a poor maid infiltrating the rich.

  • But thematically, its most interesting inspiration

  • comes from Akira Kurosawa's 1963 film

  • "High and Low,"

  • one of the first films that used height

  • as a visual representation of class,

  • with the rich towering above

  • and the poor living underneath.

  • "Parasite" expands upon this idea

  • through another visual motif introduced earlier:

  • stairs.

  • On second viewing, it's incredible to see

  • how vertical the film is

  • right from its opening image.

  • Whenever a character climbs a flight of stairs,

  • it's a visual symbol of the rise in the social class,

  • while the walk down suggests the opposite.

  • Just like the window, it's this very sequence

  • where Bong starts to take advantage

  • of all the visual concepts he set up earlier,

  • and it's the reason why we feel so uneasy

  • in a moment like this.

  • The film that most heavily inspired "Parasite"

  • is probably Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho."

  • The two films share a surprising number of similarities.

  • Both mainly feature a house

  • that almost becomes a character itself,

  • the architecture guiding the film

  • and sometimes hiding the truth in plain sight

  • on another level.

  • And, most importantly, the game-changing twist midway

  • was also done most popularly by Hitchcock in "Psycho,"

  • who killed his main character

  • exactly halfway through the film.

  • What makes the twist in "Parasite" so great

  • is that it's as predictable

  • as it is impossible to see coming.

  • The basement in question is featured

  • only twice in the film

  • for less than a minute

  • before its actual role is revealed.

  • But it's a twist that doesn't feel out of question,

  • as we've seen it happen already,

  • just through the eyes of another family.

  • The truth finally reveals itself.

  • And Bong expertly reveals the twist

  • strictly from the Kims' perspective

  • through a handheld camera.

  • As the lighting, camera, tempo,

  • and even the genre of the film changes,

  • what awaits at the end of the tunnel

  • is an entirely different film.

  • All in 10 minutes of a sequence.

  • What makes "Parasite" so perfect

  • is that it understands the rules and power of storytelling.

  • Everything on screen has a specific purpose

  • and a meaning that transforms the story as it unpacks.

  • And it's ironic that, as brilliant as Bong's plan

  • for the story is, the genius of "Parasite"

  • lies in the 10-minute sequence

  • where an entire plan is demolished on sight.

Bong Joon-ho's "Parasite"

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How "Parasite" Delivered One Of The Best Twists In Cinema | The Art Of Film

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    Courtney Shih posted on 2020/02/11
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